direction & choreography
nihon buyō & noh
Nihon Buyō and Noh
Years ago I travelled to Japan to work as an English teacher and voice over actor. What was meant to be a 1-year sojourn turned into 7-year stay where I did English voices for educational materials, video games and TV shows (including The Iron Chef) and founded a theatre group called Kee Company that did bilingual, collaboratively created shows.
I also studied nihon buyō and noh - performance forms with lineages of 400 and 700 years respectively. The forms supported each other and my Western movement and voice training. I committed to these practices to become a stronger performer and director. I continue to commit to them because I am, in my own way, responsible to these lineages. I trained in both forms intensely for over 6 years in Japan and I return to Tokyo whenever possible for research, performances and practice.
Nihon buyō (Japanese classical dance) or odori, is the dance of the kabuki theatre and of the geisha. It originated in the 17th century and developed into a detailed form of dance that uses many types of music, and incorporates storytelling, character, pantomimic gesture and virtuoso movement patterns. I studied first under master dancer and teacher Fujima Yūko (1938-2003), and now study with Fujima Shōgo. I am a natori of the Fujima School holding the professional name Fujima Sayū.
I am the Artistic Director of TomoeArts which I founded in part to honour Yūko-sensei and her dream of internationalizing her beloved dance form. With the company I have produced traditional dance concerts featuring master guest artists from Japan. I have also created dance-theatre performances incorporating elements and aesthetics of nihon buyō. We also work with local community artists and run classes and workshops
Nihon buyō is refined, expressive and one of the most elegant forms of dance I have ever seen. Dancers of nihon buyō perform into their 70s or 80s...so this is a lifelong journey
Noh is a chanted and dance form of theatre which originated in 15th century Japan. I am student of the Kita School and have studied with noh professional Richard Emmert and master teacher/actor Ōmura Sadamu. I continue my training in utai (chant) and shimai (dance) on my trips to Japan and now through online chanting lessons. I have danced in numerous recitals, and performed the shite role in a a full hakama-noh version of the play Tomoe.
I am also a founding member of Theatre Nohgaku an international group dedicated to the teaching, training, and dissemination of noh outside Japan, and also to the creation and production of new noh plays. Whenever we can get together we continue our training through residencies and productions.
I believe noh is a brilliant form for actors and dancers to learn breath control, focus, and simplicity, and a wonderful way to work on core strength. It is a highly refined expressive vehicle, and I have used elements of it in much of my contemporary choreography and direction.